Sunday, December 29, 2013

Road Weary and Dog Tired...

We made it.  The dogs made it.  My wife made it.  The kid made—wait….okay, yep the kid made it too.

First off, I’d like to thank everyone for not robbing me.  Because it’s not very smart to post online about being out of town while you’re out of town.  But I figured the small group of people who read this are good people.  And I put my lights on a timer, just in case.
1,670 miles.  And I will never do that again.  At least not with both the kid and the pets.  Someone's staying put next time, a dog, a dad, perhaps a kid. Because it was just a little too much.  Our visit was great, as always my in-laws were more than accommodating and we had a great time.  I’m very fortunate to have such great people in my life.  But getting there and getting home was not all that great.  Even splitting our trip into two days did little to put me at ease.  For example…
This morning, after a full day of driving in Pennsylvania bottlenecked construction hell, and then tossing into a turbulent night’s sleep with a very off schedule and out of routine baby, I stepped out to start packing the car. In my grogginess, Mason, our husky, (see here, here, and here), squeezed his pinhead right past me out into the hallway. When I turned to grab him, Bruce—once thought to be our good dog—bulled his way out and the stampede was underway.  I had to give them credit—the plan they’d sprung was perfectly executed.  When the door slammed shut I was left with two dogs making a getaway, no leash and no key.  The last thing I remember thinking as I watched Mason take the corner towards the lobby where guests were sitting down to breakfast was, I’ll have to blog about this.
It ended up being way less drama than I anticipated.  I mean, sure some old people dropped their wheat bran toast and gawped, but luckily I was able to round them up without further incident.  All this before 7am.
Outside, the rain was heavy, which was good because it washed my car clean of the sludge from up north.  But it wasn’t good weather for putting your entire little family at risk.  With white knuckles and tight necks, we slogged our way down I81, weaving in and out of truckers.  By the time we stopped at Sheets in Virginia, the weather had cleared but the damage was done.  My shoulders drooped, my hair was matted, I was toppled over from the constant worrying that yes, this is it, that truck was coming over into our lane and taking us out.  And because Simon hadn’t had his nails trimmed all week and had clawed my face earlier that morning, I had cuts and nicks on my forehead giving me that just- binged-on-meth glow. 

And the car was in worse shape.  The seats reeked of wet dogs and dirty diapers.  There was the drool from Mason’s neurotic meltdowns.  I had to laugh though, as my wife got up to use the bathroom and her pants were covered in dog hair.  I’m really surprised people didn’t offer us money.
But now we’re back.  And there’s nothing like pulling into your driveway after a long trip.  I have to get back into that car tomorrow and drive to work, a sickening thought.  I know that truck driving is not in my future.  There are few things worse than sitting for hours at a time.  But my family is home and safe and now there’s nothing to worry about….except….what’s that smell?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Road Warriors...

I tried not to think to much about my Christmas vacation leading up to it actually happening, thus minimizing the doomsday scenarios that flash through my mind when I worry about stuff, like say, being in the car for 13 hours...with a baby...and two dogs. 

But the other day, as we were leaving for New York, I was overcome with joy at my good fortune.  I’d managed to get the trunk packed and was watching my wife exit the house.  She shut the door, cocked her head like she does when mentally checking down her list(s), and walked towards the car.  We were actually leaving.  I rubbed my hands together, buckled up, shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway.  I even reset the trip odometer like the old man I am. 



We sat in the car, idling just in front of our home.  The odometer doesn’t measured feet but I estimated 37.

“I forgot my sunglasses.”

I eased back into the driveway and my wife hopped out, ran to her car.  (well, sauntered actually), and then proceeded to set off the alarm.  After that, she reentered the house and I took the opportunity to lecture my son on the virtues of bachelorhood.  Then we set off again, this time driving exactly 2.6 miles before having to turn around.  We’d forgotten a very important gift.  I cannot begin to type the severity of the curse words that echoed in my head at that moment.

Okay, inching along.  We completed the first leg of our journey without any more serious hiccups.  We stopped for a roadside picnic--due to the two dogs.  My memory seared moment came as we packed up to get back on the road somewhere in WVa.  While waiting to pull out into traffic, my wife told me to stop, where she hopped out of the car and I watched from my rearview mirror as she, still holding her own breast milk in one hand,scoured the trunk for bottle nipples as traffic zipped past. Deep breaths.

Seven hours after leaving the house, we arrived at our hotel.

Now I’m sure Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, has its moments.  I’m sure that there are days when the sun shines and the grass burst a shimmering green as the birds whistle an especially sweet tune.

This was not one of those days.  The mist and fog only lent to the miserable experience of our stay, right from the time we pulled right up to our curbside door. My first thought as my wife checked in as I waited in the car with my road weary son and howling dogs, was that I hoped I had change for the vibrating bed.

I’m not a snob.  Trust me.  But when it comes to my family—especially my son who’s not even a year old, I get a little uptight.  Throw in two stressed dogs and by the time we walked into the room—which was eerily similar to the rooms my friends and I used to rent out when we were teenagers for a place to drink and party—I was a little bit on edge.

We tried to make the best out of it, even though the door wouldn't seem to close quite right (perhaps to being kicked in by the police), and the foot traffic and passing cars kept the dogs on edge.  It was a restless night, and the worst was yet to come as the weather reports did us no favors, showing rolling clips of apocalyptic ice storm threatening to bring the entire North to a standstill. 

But I’d all but made up my mind to drive north as far as allowable to get another room—far away from our current room awash with the orange glow of the gas station sign outside, and reassess our situation.

Day two brought rain.  It brought fog.  It brought ice, sleet, snow and everything else it could throw at us.  But we made it.  I ate a tray full of Christmas cookies for lunch (we all made sacrifices), with my wife in the back seat and feeding our child.  

People passed and pointed, no doubt laughing at the man who forced his wife in the back while his dog sat shotgun.  Whatever.  We arrived at our destination cold and tired but in one piece.

So now we're here and tonight the temperatures are supposed to be somewhere around five degrees.  But there's fudge and cookies and lots of snow, not to mention good people and Christmas cheer.  Oh yeah, and while walking my dogs I found this Santa, so that made the whole trip worthwhile...


Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Son, Don't Pick The Cowboys...

Son,I'll put it bluntly. I forbid you to cheer for the Dallas Cowboys.

I'm doing this for your own good. Go find a good team. A blue collar, workmanlike team. Don't fall for the flash, the titles, the glitz and glamour. It's fool's gold, and you are no fool.

Me? Yeah, it's too late for me. But I have high hopes for you.

You can question my loyalty, call me a fair weather fan.Just don't say that I don't care, because I do. I want to protect my son, save him the head banging frustration that comes with following The Boys. And in the end, isn't that what we all want to do, protect our children?

Dreaming Big...
He’s a clean slate. Without the memories of yesteryear which makes the heartbreak of today so painful. He never saw the big three play in the nineties. He hasn’t learned about the history and tradition. So for him I will say, go find your team. Any team. Just don’t pick the Cowboys.

With 31 other options to choose from(and there may be more on the way), I want him to find happiness somewhere else. He can pick those lovable losers in Cleveland, he can choose solely by uniform—as my wife did, and hop on the wings of the Seattle Seahawks. He can go with the rich history and tradition of the Packers, Bears, Giants, ahem, uh Redskins.

And that is fine. Just don’t pick the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are like the hot blonde smiling at you across the room. The one everyone warns you about yet you trudge across the floor towards her. She’ll flirt with you and get your hopes up and then split after you buy her a drink. But like an idiot you'll keep coming back hoping that the next time....well yes next time will be different.

You’ll blame the defense, Tony Romo, coaching, that hideous big screen in the stadium, climate change. You'll make excuses to make yourself feel better. A week will pass and you tune in again, only to inflict more pain.  And then come playoff time you'll find yourself without a team.

I know all too well. I became a Cowboys dad because my dad was a Cowboys fan. I never had a chance. I learned about the history, checking out books from our school library where I read about the gridiron greats who’d worn the star. Players like Drew Pearson, Bob Hayes, Don Meredith, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Hollywood Henderson, Everson Walls, Michael Downs, Doug Cosby, and even the lesser known but fearless renegade, Bill Bates. At home I’d sit cross legged and wide-eyed on the floor as my dad passed down the stories of the clashes with the Steelers during the glory days of the seventies. Sure, those losses to the Steel Curtain were heart wrenching, but Super Bowl victories in '71 and '77 kind of cushioned the blow.

Those teams in the seventies were perennial power houses, not to mention what could have been had Jackie Smith not dropped a sure touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII. (Still hurts). But the end was near, and Dwight Clark’s catch against the 49ers ushered in the eighties as Danny White struggled in the shadow of the great Roger Staubach. But struggle is a relative term. Compared with today, the eighties were a runaway success. There were still playoffs, and even playoff victories. There was still Tom Landry, stalking the sidelines, the legend in the suit and fedora who’d coached the team since its inception in 1960.

As a kid I devoured the history of my beloved Cowboys. And now it hurts. It hurts bad. But this isn’t a history lesson son. This is a warning. A heed. A command if you will. Stay away from them. As a matter of fact, stay away from football. Do something productive with your time or even just punch yourself in the gut every Sunday afternoon.

But if you do choose to watch football, at least pick a team without a meddling owner. Pick a team that plays in a normal stadium instead of a theme park with a football field. Pick a team with less flash and more substance, a team whose owner doesn’t play fantasy football with his own club. I guess that does rule out the Redskins too…

One playoff win over the next seventeen years. Kids graduating high school now have never known the Cowboys to be any good and probably wonder why they are so talked about. They’re the epitome of mediocre. Win one lose one and so on. They flirt with playoff contention and do just enough to stay relevant and in the news. 

And they let you down year after year after year.

Yet they do remain relevant.They are the lead story, the headliners.The main act. Forbes Magazine lists them as the most valuable franchise in sports.  The Cowboys games are constantly on prime time. Thanksgiving, Monday nights. And every year is the year. Few teams in the history of sports can excite the media with a two game winning streak. The Cowboys do it every single year. If they win three, things really get chaotic. The talk shows begin gushing about the playoffs and glory days. Hell, they were 3-9 and "still in the hunt" this year. And then the bottom falls out. 

Every. Single. Year.

So don’t do it son. Pick San Fran, Denver, San Diego, hell, pick the Raiders. Just don’t pick the Boys, don’t jumble your brain with useless stats that float around inside your father’s head and make him wince when hears names like Quincy Carter, Leon Lett, Babe Laughenburg, ugh, Greg Hardy. 

Go pick a team and enjoy football like a normal person. Who knows?  Maybe you'll hitch your wagon to the right horse and get lucky. So listen to your father, or your grandfather, we want the best for you. Break away, go find a team that will make you happy.

You have my blessing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Breast Man...

From day one our son has been a breast fed baby. He took to the boob without much fuss and never looked back.  Mornings began with a little feeding, as well as nap times, fussy times, and of course nighttime.  Now that he's taken to solid foods, snacking on Cheerios and sharing fig newtons with Daddy, I ask....When do we pull the plug?  

We're approaching the one year mark and he's still all about the boob.  I mean he really likes the boob. This leaves us wondering when exactly, will we wean this kid.  Two years? Three years?   When he comes home from school as a teenager and calls out in that deep, yet uninterested adolescent voice, Mom, were like, all out of milk and I have a full bowl of cereal....Come here....Is that when it just becomes too creepy to continue? I mean there has to be an end, right?

Okay, I'm getting carried away.  And get it. The boob is his safety net. But he’s a little overzealous about the whole deal— climbing up on his mom and trying to pull her shirt off, I mean, guys have gone to jail for less. He's shameless, a tyrant who refuses to relinquish his reign and it make take a full on revolution to change things...

I miss the days that my wife’s boobs were more than just feeding devices—there, I said it. I’m tired of sharing.

So with this in mind I did a little research and found this nugget on The Mayo Clinic’s website:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth — and breast-feeding in combination with solids foods until at least age 1. Extended breast-feeding is recommended as long as you and your baby wish to continue.

Wish to continue? We have no say in this. Our little leach wishes to continue as long as the well is pumping.   Place boob in mouth.  Repeat.  He falls asleep holding on to it for safe keeping. Sometimes grabbing both.

And here’s more:

If you're weaning a child age 1 or older, consider not offering this feeding and seeing if he or she requests it.

Requests?  This isn't some top 40 radio station call in line.  There are no requests, only demands. 

Here's the deal:  No boob, no sleep. And don’t let him catch her with the breast pump; it’s like watching an episode of Cheaters. Once he lays eyes on the goods, things fall apart.   We have to quickly pack up and rush to secure the liquid gold before there is a full on panic. 

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand situation. If demands are not met, there will be consequences. So at eleven months there’s no reason to stop his gravy train quite yet, but the end is in sight, whether he knows it or not...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad Dad

Not this bad...
The other night my son fell off the bed. Well, he sort of just slid off the bed as it wasn’t made and the blankets were kind of bunched up and cushioned his fall. Okay, so now I’m a slob and a horrible dad.

After hearing all of the horror stories about babies falling you’d think that I wouldd know better. And I do. I know that it is not a smart decision to leave a baby on a bed. I got it. But it’s not like I set him down and then went to watch the game or something. Seriously, I didn’t. He was in the middle of the bed looking at the ceiling fan and I turned my back—I didn’t’ leave the room or for that matter the bed.  It was a split second, and when I turned back he was taking the plunge. I cannot adequately describe how scared I was when this happened, just thinking about it still makes me cringe.

I was lucky. He’s okay, not even a scratch. He landed on a blanket on his side, looking up at me, like, Dude, where were you on that one? And after a quick whimper he was back (and I resumed breathing), laughing and giggling. Thank God for strong bones.

But from now on I gotta keep my head in the game…

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Road Trippin'

With Christmas approaching my wife and I will soon be hitting the road and hitting it hard.  I'm a southern boy who married a New York girl. Not New York as in the city.  New York as in damn near Canada.    

So what does that mean? Well:

The first time I visited it was 28 degrees.  In June.  

That the mere mentioning of the words sweet and tea make her wince.

That I have to stand by as a decoder when she speaks to certain family members, leaning into her ear like a translator. Pretent honey, think pretended.

That every time she watches college football I have to explain to her that no, it's not the super bowl.

That our son will probably not be playing rec league hockey but her ice skates make great bookends.

That she is still not used to the fact that there will be no chance of snow on Halloween.

That in the event that there is cold rain, schools will shut down and the closing will start scrolling below on the local news. Milk will become scarce as grocery stores are mobbed as soon as the weather man says there is a slight chance of –.

That macaroni and cheese is yellow, not white.  Yellow.

That up until the year 2000, Virginia lumped in two confederate generals with Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrated the puzzling holiday known as Lee/Jackson/King day.

Okay, I’m getting off topic. What it means is some seriously long road trips. I’ve been up to damn near Canada twice before. But now we have a kid, and he’s not the best road trip partner. He's good for a quick outing and if we are lucky he’ll sleep but there is something else. it gets better.

As things stand now we are also taking our two dogs, one of which is a little, well, let’s just say he has a certain zest for life.

family trucksterSo let’s take a look at this. There’s my wife and me, the kid, and two dogs on a thirteen hour drive. Are we there yet?

We’ve lined up a great house sitter, but that’s the easy part. Our house is potty trained and usually on good behavior. The cat is staying—no problems there, but my wife refusing to leave the dogs behind. We’ve tried to come up with alternatives. She’s against kenneling the dogs, and our husky has burned his bridges with dog sitters. So…. 

We plan on stopping somewhere in Pennsylvania at a halfway point so we need to find a hotel that accommodates dogs. Well one dog and one lunatic with fur.

So how will this work? I have no idea. If you pass what looks like a travelling circus in a Subaru somewhere near the Mason/Dixon line be sure to wave. My wife says it will be an adventure and she’s right, but so was the Hindenburg.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Simon's First Thanksgiving

For me, Thanksgiving used to mean time off from work and drinking with friends who were back in town. Wednesday became Friday, and after a short workweek we’d storm the bars and get all rosy and stupid. Ah the good old days. The next morning I’d stumble out of bed around ten with a taste for turkey and football, after which I'd relapse into a coma on the couch as the game grinded out in the background.

But now.

But now there is none of that. And that is fine. I don’t miss it, really I don’t. I miss my paychecks when they were mine and not the baby’s, but not the revelry of my youth. These days the craziest I like to get is when my wife and I sneak to the kitchen and enjoy one, maybe two beers on a Friday night. Whoo! hoo! Shhhhh!

This Thanksgiving was spent with my Dad and stepmother. They’ve been in Texas for over twenty years so it had been a while since we’d sliced up a turkey together. And it was great.  We ate and laughed and made merry.   But what I’ll remember the most about this time—and I know how corny this would sound to younger and much cooler me—was my little family. The television remained off for most of the break, (The iron bowl instant classic notwithstanding. What a classic, I couldn’t believe the ending. And Bama finally lost! I’ve never seen—Oh, this isn’t about college football, sorry), and I missed all of this Amazon drone business.  But it was well worth it as I rolled around on the floor, read books (sort of, I read he swats the pages), and just enjoyed the downtime. I also got really used to sleeping in until after 7 for 5 straight days.

I did manage to get the Christmas lights up, with some minor setbacks. I climbed up the giant Crepe Myrtle tree, a string of colored lights in hand, when the ladder shot out and I was left dangling all Griswald style until I could climb down. You’re welcome neighbors.

I think Simon enjoyed his first Thanksgiving, he did a lot of squealing and we discovered that he loves Fig Newtons. I mean he really loves Fig Newtons. Just opening the cabinet causes his eyes to widen and he starts giggling like a Toronto Mayor at a flophouse. It’s fun to watch him try new things, shuddering at peas and geeking out with figs are just a couple of things that make my day.

So here's to change and trying new things.  Buty most of all, to Fig Newtons...